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Alchemy on Hiring – the PASHA Career Expo Post 1

I am not exactly the role model for giving hiring advice since in my career to date I have only actively looked five times for a job.

a) Immediately after school at FAST ICS (four offers)

b) Four and a half years later when I was pissed at my boss for taking sides (one offer)

c) After graduating from Columbia Business School when I walked into an information session by Viant, then an upcoming and rising technology practice (two offers)

d) In 2001 when Avicena and the economy died together and no one was hiring (one offer)

e) And the last time in December 2002 when I got laid off from AnnuityNet, looked around and then decided to head back home to Pakistan (four offers).

This does not include the handful of times when clients primarily called up and said, why don’t you dump what you are doing and come work with us.

On the other side of the fence, I have now been hiring candidates and giving career advice for a decade and a half. Not much by any standard, but all in all, I have tested, interviewed, shortlisted and dissected close to a 1000 plus candidates here in Pakistan as well as in North America. Actuaries, MBA’s, computer scientists, English lit and math majors, interns, office help, nut jobs, whack jobs, assassins for hire… Been there done that.

This piece is just a rant about hiring that has been due for a very long time. Jehan, the PASHA Career Expo, our recent internal hiring exercise (150 plus candidates processed over three months), brought it to the fore front. Stick around, it will be fun.

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What do great employees look for:

Greatness. Do you have any idea how boring, mundane and frustrating anonymity is? Or for that matter just being another, ordinary, common, group thinking individual. No great candidate wants to work for an unknown or mediocre shop or remain a nobody for any stretch of time.

The first question peers ask is where do you work? And if you need more than two sentences to explain who you work for and what you do for a living, your social desirability index drops down instantaneously. “I work for Alchemy” should be enough of an introduction. And it should be followed by “Wow, how did you get in? I hear their yield is less than 1%? Is it as whacky a place as people say it is?” Anything else is unworthy of your attention and/or respect.

But greatness is more than infamy. There are other attributes. A brilliant team that will push and challenge you beyond your personal best; High bandwidth problems that will open up areas of your neural map that you weren’t even aware existed; Giving you opportunities and space to meet your mountain and moving it; Winning. Making a difference and making it big.

Great candidates look for the shortest path to infamy. Simply because great candidate are suckers for RESPECT. It goes beyond egos and validation. There is no sense in being part of the top 1% if nobody knows or acknowledges you as part of that elite group.

An unfair deal. A great candidate doesn’t care about a fair deal for everyone. He only cares about himself. If I have just broken the benchmark for performance measurement do I really care that the average increment across the organization was 10% this year. Or that peer salaries in this group are 30% less than what I will accept as a starting offer. Or that you don’t share equity because it’s against your company policy.

Great candidates only care about producing above the benchmark and being fairly compensated for the value they have created. For most organizations this is an unfair deal since it breaks the benchmark.

Don’t get me wrong. A great candidate will wait, he will be patient, he will ask you nicely, but once he has produced and proven himself he needs to be compensated. He doesn’t care about money; he cares about a fair deal for himself. Whether it is fair or unfair to everyone else – that is just your mindset. And it’s not his problem, you need to fix your mindset, he is not going to reset his expectations.

For more on this read Ayn Rand’s The Fountain Head and Atlas shrugged in that order.

A problem with their name on it. I was born to build companies – that is a problem with my name on it. Put that problem in front of me and I will work for free for you for the first month or two, possibly even longer, maybe even as long as I can afford.

I was also born to build really intricate financial models – another problem with my name on it. I have done it for fifteen years and still do it for free. For people I really really like. Everyone else pays through their nose.

Great employees know the problem with their name on it. You put that in front of them, put them in a room with a few laptops, white boards, servers and feeding tubes and they will never come out again. You may have to kill them before they will let anyone else touch a problem with their name on it.

If you don’t know the problem with your name on it, you are not a great candidate.

What do Great Companies look for:

They look for great employees…

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PASHA Career Expo PDF Flier – Catch Alchemy at our booth in Karachi on 16th June 2007 at the PASHA Career Expo in Karachi.

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